Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in Blood by Daniel Way, Steve Dillon (Artist)

Wolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in BloodWolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in Blood by Daniel Way
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm delving deep into Wolverine's origin stories and finding some dark places in his past. Wolverine has done plenty of his share of dirty deeds, and he has his share of regret. He wants to make things right. He created a killer for the US government, and realized that it wasn't too different from the forces that shaped him.

It was really dark seeing what Wolverine did in this part of his past, and the repercussions. I think that this tragic and dark past is part and parcel of what makes him the unique hero that he is, so I find that reading this saddens me, but it also makes me understand why the Wolverine of the present is so determined to fight for justice in his own way.

Not for the faint of the heart, but integral to the story of Wolverine. Some pretty cool cameos by others in the Marvel Universe.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Justice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous by Geoff Johns

Justice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most DangerousJustice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was pretty good, once I got beyond the misconception that JL and JLA was the same. That Amanda Waller is a master schemer and manipulator. I feel that Steve Trevor is in a tough spot. I don't think he's completely against the Justice League (he still has feelings for Diana), but Waller is playing on his concern for Diana and his jealousy over her being involved with Superman, and the fact that Steve isn't a super and therefore couldn't work out with Diana in the long run.

The team that they put together is interesting. I hope my library continues to carry this so I can see where the story goes next. I actually liked Catwoman in this book, so I am convinced to try her New 52 series.

I was a bit confused on some aspects. It's hard with these action and character-packed stories to keep up with everyone. But overall, I felt the story was cohesive, and I liked how it continued the arc from Justice League, Vol. 4: The Grid and showed the JLA side (and dealt with some of my confusion over JL versus JLA).

I wasn't too excited about the first JL titles I read, but I am starting to like these graphic novels more and more.

I'd recommend this title.

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The Hawk and the Lamb (Harlequin Presents,  #1616)The Hawk and the Lamb by Susan Napier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked how the whole set up builds suspense, but it's in a lighter, humorous way. I'm a sucker for that spy vibe, so I enjoyed it. Elizabeth is clearly way out of her depth as a spy, but she's clearly good enough to keep the hero guessing. I agree with one of my friends that the description of the hero in a tight swimming briefs didn't sound that appealing to me, and he sounds kind of skeevy with the earring and the abundant chest hair. However, I felt the chemistry was well done, and it was nice touch the the heroine feared being too passionate because of her first and last lover making her feel bad that her libido was much stronger than his (he was older). I felt the way that Elizabeth wigged out near the near was kind of weird and melodramatic. It was tension the story really didn't need.

Not my favorite by this wonderful author, but still a four star read.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Suspect by Robert Crais

SuspectSuspect by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book that you need to read if you're an animal lover! I loved the whole aspect of the bond that formed between Scott and Maggie. They are both wounded warriors, grieving their lost love ones, and somewhat rejected because of their emotional/physical wounds. Maggie was so awesome, I felt my heart fill with love for this wonderful German Shepherd. I am a huge fan of this breed, and Crais presents their wonderful natures in the most truthful and vibrant way.

Crais fills in some interesting tidbits on the training of police dogs and their holders and what military dogs do. That aspect of Maggie in the frontlines with her handler just about tore my heart out. I cheer on military people who do that important and dangerous job, and it squeezes my heart as an animal lover how equally dangerous it is for their working dogs. Police dogs also serve a crucial role and they can face some very dangerous situations in the line of duty. Scott's boss reminded me of my dad who was a country boy who loved dogs. He had his down to earth manner and sense of connection to dogs that was almost spiritual.

Scott is a good character, but honestly, I needed more of his inner world. I feel that this was a function of this book being too short. I would have liked a longer, more expansive story that took place over a longer time period. While the bond between Scott and Maggie totally sells this book, I would have found it more believable had it taken place over a longer period of time. Such as it was, I loved it. Maggie is such a wonderful companion, and I liked that not only does she help Scott heal, he helps her as well. While I am a cat lady, I also love dogs, and this book made me long to bring home my very own German Shepherd Dog one day soon. Crais shows how important the human animal bond is in society and how therapeutic animals and people can be to each other. Sorry to go on my soapbox. I can't help it because this book really touches on this issue which is so dear to my heart.

The mystery part felt undeveloped, honestly. Crais is an excellent mystery writer, so I don't mean to put him down, but it was a bit simplistic compared to some of his other works. I was surprised at the culprits and the look Ta police corruption is sobering. The secondary characters add texture to the story, but some of their parts felt under-represented.

Man, I hate to put this book down in my review! I have so much love for the whole aspect of Maggie and Scott as partners, and I am truly in love with Maggie. She's up there with Einstein from Watchers for me, which is really saying something. This book has something so powerful to say about the love between people and their pets/animals that it earns a special place in my heart. And honestly, I still feel it deserves four stars despite some of my issues with its brevity affecting the execution of the overall storyline.

Definitely check this out. The audiobook is really good and the narrator is excellent.

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Animal Man, Volume 1: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman (Illustrator), John Paul Leon (illustrator), Steve Pugh (Illustrator)

Animal Man, Vol. 1: The HuntAnimal Man, Vol. 1: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up because I've been reading Swamp Thing and the story seems to cross over--the war is between the Green and Red versus the Rot. Honestly, I didn't like the artwork at all. It made an already gruesome and disturbing story moreso. The drawings were so squiggly and unappealing, and the colors were too muted for my tastes. If the creators were going for a horror tale, they achieved their goal. I love animals, so I like the idea of Buddy (and his daughter) having a connection to the animal web of life, but I hated how the Rot distorts this.

I am on the fence about continuing this series. I think I prefer the Swamp Thing execution. I'm hoping that Buddy and his family will show on that side and I can get a different and in my mind better perception of the Animal Man concept.

Unfortunately, the artwork was such a turnoff, I had to give this one 2.5/5.0 stars.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Suicide Squad, Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish by Ales Kot, Patrick Zircher (Illustrations)

Suicide Squad, Vol. 4: Discipline and PunishSuicide Squad, Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish by Ales Kot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This felt different from the last books, but then the writer is different. Still loving this series. Still lots of craziness, and violence. Not too gratuitous, thankfully. Some thoughtful stories, one with Deadshot as a young man who is driven by revenge, and another with Harley Quinn reflecting on her life. Both come to realize that they need the Suicide Squad to give them balance. For Harley, it keeps her off the edge of chaos, and for Deadshot, it's a challenge that means more than getting paid.

I am indifferent toward Cheetah as a member. She adds nothing to the team. The Unknown Soldier comes off as a bit of a Waller toady. The addition of Commissioner Gordon's serial killer son is intriguing. He's developed a fixation on Miss Waller.

As usual, you don't get all the story or all the answers. It makes me eager to read the next volume.

My favorites are still Harley Quinn and Deadshot, both conflicted characters who leave you feeling sympathetic, but also kind of guilty that you like them so much.

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Justice League Dark, Volume 3: The Death of Magic by Jeff Lemire

Justice League Dark, Vol. 3: The Death of MagicJustice League Dark, Vol. 3: The Death of Magic by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A disappointing follow up to The Books of Magic. I didn't like the storyline much in this one. I felt the story built up to an exciting plateau, but to me, the conclusion wasn't that well done. I feel like that was a nod to Harry Potter, which is kind of fun. And all the magic creatures looking to young Andrew as their lost leader.

I kind of liked the "What If" when the team lands in the anti-magic kingdom, where their powers don't work. Even Constantine can't lie or dissemble. That was funny, since Constantine is the most honest and forthright you'll ever see him in his life. Kind of felt bad for Deadman and Madame Xanadu since being in the place was particularly bad on them both.

Yeah, I don't remember much else because it's been so long since I read this. Just that it wasn't as good as the last volume. I'll keep reading though.

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The Punisher, Volume 3 by Greg Rucka (Text), Mirko Colak (Illustrations), Marco Checchetto (Illustrations), Mico Suayan (Illustrations)

The Punisher, Vol. 3The Punisher, Vol. 3 by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the darkest volume, and that's saying something. Rachel Cole-Alves really has to count the cost of her mission to punish criminals. Castle doesn't take it easy on her. He treats her like the soldier she is. Lays it out on the line for her. The storyline building up from the first books culminates in a way that is very intense. I can't say anything more without spoiling it.

This is a riveting read. I love this series, even when it's hard to read.

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All Star Western, Vol. 4 by Jimmy Palmiotti All Star Western, Vol. 4: Gold Standard by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray (Goodreads Author), Moritat (Illustrations)

All Star Western, Vol. 4: Gold StandardAll Star Western, Vol. 4: Gold Standard by Jimmy Palmiotti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like that this series keeps it interesting. Mixes up the stories. The tone varies with each volume. This one has an interesting mix of humor and twisted borderline horror. Hex teams up with crime fight from the future, Booster Gold. Booster Gold is ineffectual, let's be honest. He ends up being the sheriff for a town, a hapless one that is preyed on by a gang of sociopaths/psychopaths led by a voodoo/human sacrificing couple. Yeah, Hex and Booster Gold make quite an odd couple. Hex is a real rascal, but I like him more and more. I have to say, some of the drawings here of Hex were really quite ugly (poor guy). However, it doesn't serve as a hindrance in getting ladies. This one ends on a very interesting cliffhanger. I hope this isn't the last one in the volume!

There is a side story with an 18th century version of Stormwatch. That was kind of cool. I liked how they take on vampires and other creatures of the night. It would make a fun movie idea.

I wish I had written my review sooner. I forgot part of the story. I do remember liking it a lot.

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Batwoman, Volume 1: Hydrology by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman

Batwoman, Vol. 1: HydrologyBatwoman, Vol. 1: Hydrology by J.H. Williams III
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this. It was different and really artistic, but I wasn't that enamored with the story and Kate as a main character. I'm not familiar with Batwoman, so this is a very new character for me. I think that people interested in GLBT characters will really appreciate it. It's a favorable profile of a strong, empowered lesbian woman. However, at the same time, Kate has some issues. She's got major survival guilt and an anger problem. She's dealing with her angst in some ways that aren't healthy.

I picked this up because I saw the La Llorona storyline. As a folklore enthusiast, I'm familiar with the Latin urban legend of a woman who comes back as a ghost and haunts and lures men/sometimes children to their death due to her need for vengeance on a lover leaving her and her subsequent drowning of her children and suicide by drowning. It was an interesting take on the legend. There is a twist at the end that sets up a continued story. I'm not sure right now if I will continue this. I'm not that in love with Kate as a lead character.

The artwork is interesting and visually arresting. The characters are drawn in a very distinctive way. I liked that about it. It's a dark story, so you have to be in the mood for it. Pretty good. We'll see if I get back to this series.

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The Justice League (New 52), Volume 4: The Grid by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis (Illustrations)

Justice League, Vol. 4: The GridJustice League, Vol. 4: The Grid by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stuff gets real in this graphic novel! It was a bit hard to keep track of the story at times, with so many characters. But heck, it's the Justice League. I like that there is a fresh sort of look at the characters and the story. If you don't ship Wonder Woman and Superman, you won't be a happy camper. I'm more of a Wonder Woman/Batman girl (a girl can hope), but it makes sense the way they write it here. There is a crazy twist at the end that I really liked, although I was kind of like, "Oh, Crud!" I sincerely hope my library gets the next volume.

I really liked this one. So four stars.

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Justice League: Rise and Fall by J.T. Krul (Goodreads Author), Fabrizio Fiorentino (Illustrator)

Justice League: Rise and Fall Justice League: Rise and Fall by J.T. Krul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a riveting, emotional read. It's heartbreaking what Roy Harper (the first Speedy) goes through. I wish that things were different. That Roy didn't have to go through the grief of losing a child. Unfortunately, he goes on a downward spiral, and he's not alone. Oliver Queen, his mentor (and foster father) goes over the line, seeking vengeance instead of the justice his membership in the League represents.

This book had me feeling very uncomfortable. I have a problem with drug abuse, and it was hard to see Roy going down that road. I could understand the pain he was trying to kill with drugs, but I hated seeing him go down that road. His decision to pursue a more violent personage is iffy as well. The combination is a very scary proposition.

Ollie is a character I just love. I can't explain why. He's very flawed, but he's one of my favorites from the graphic novel series. I felt bad for him for what happens between him and Dinah, but I can understand her reasoning. The writing is complex here, you can feel all the angst and the complicated actions and feelings of characters. I think that this is really good writing for a graphic novel. The writer doesn't take it easy on you. You go through all the pain with the characters, feel their horror, and the impact of the poor and not-so poor decisions they make. You also flinch when you see how they treat each other, for valid or not reasons.

I don't want to revisit Roy's loss head on, but I'm interesting in continuing his story.

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Salvation Run by Matthew Sturges (Goodreads Author), Bill Willingham (Goodreads Author), Sean Chen (Illustrator), Walden Wong (Illustrator)

Salvation RunSalvation Run by Matthew Sturges
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Salvation Run is definitely a book from the villain viewpoint. It's interesting to see that vantage point, if well done. I think this was mostly well done, although I never felt much sympathy for the villains (except for when they threw the mortally wounded guy to the ravenous predators, which was just wrong!). I really, really despise the Joker, and this story gave me much reason to dislike him. He is completely malevolent and utterly psychopathic. I can't find a single redeeming trait in him. Lex Luthor has got to have the biggest ego in the multiverse. He is completely narcissistic and a huge megalomaniac. It sucks that his massive intellect feeds into his grandiose view of himself and his overweening self-confidence. I think I might have liked this more if their roles weren't the biggest. I could see some of the less objectionable villains as more antiheroes but not so much these two.

It was an interesting idea with good execution. I don't care as much for this as the Suicide Squad, although they are also quite villainous in some ways. Although Harley Quinn started out as an acolyte of the Joker, I quite like her. I'm glad she's moved on from the Joker. At any rate, this was kind of fun to see the various villains from the DC Comics universe. And there were some interesting surprises and quite a commentary on human nature and the way that people react to crises, in mostly the worst ways.

I've rate this at about 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Vol. 4 by Karen Traviss (Goodreads Author), Derek Fridolfs, Various (Illustrations)

Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Vol. 4Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Vol. 4 by Karen Traviss
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I had no idea this was the fourth book in the series. I grabbed it off the shelf, thinking it was the follow up to Batman: Arkham City. It does seems like it does pick up soon after that book ended.

Overall, I was bored with this graphic novel. Not very much happened. It was more of a mystery/police procedural, which isn't bad in itself. However, there was no real excitement or build in the story. I found myself just trying to finish it.

For those who ship Batman and Catwoman, there were some interesting flirting bits. Bats is different with her. I don't know if indulgent is the right word. He seems more emotive than usual, at any rate.

My verdict is I didn't care that much for this book. It wasn't terrible, although I wasn't that fond of the way Bats is drawn. Just kind of middle of the road for me.

Overall rating: 2.5/5.0 stars

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Woman Woman: Down to Earth by Greg Rucka, Drew Johnson (Illustrator), Ray Snyder (Illustrator), Steve Rude (Illustrator), Stuart Immonen (Illustrator), Eduardo Risso (Illustrator), Eric Shanower (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator), Brian Stelfreeze (Illustrator)

Wonder Woman: Down to EarthWonder Woman: Down to Earth by Greg Rucka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As much as I appreciate Greg Rucka's writing, I wasn't too fond of this graphic novel. Not an auspicious start to my Wonder Woman graphic novel reading career. I thought it was way too mired in politics. I hate politics. I don't see Wonder Woman as a woman of rhetoric, but a woman of actions which show the principles she holds dearly. This book made me almost like Wonder Woman less. It seemed as though she was cast in the role of politician/representative, and my trust factor seems to diminish greatly when I see someone in this role. She seemed to be trying to juggling both roles, as representative to her people and mouthpiece and fighter and protector for justice. Also, the artwork was dated. I think I am sensitive to that when I read graphic novels. I like the newer artwork and style. So when I read a book that is over ten years old, I almost have to brace myself that I won't be as attracted by the artwork.

It's hard to say much about the storyline, because I feel that this is part of a series and maybe I dropped in when things had already gotten started. As such, I didn't know the major players well, or what was going on. I don't know if it's worth tracking down the other parts of the series, honestly.

This could be an "It's not you, It's me" kind of scenario, seeing as how I am not a big fan of political storylines, and as mentioned, I prefer the newer graphic novels' art styles.

You might like this more than I did.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sword and Sorcery, Volume 1: Amethyst by Christy Marx, Aaron Lopresti (Illustrations), Various (Illustrations)

Sword of Sorcery, Vol. 1: AmethystSword of Sorcery, Vol. 1: Amethyst by Christy Marx
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to admit that the cover made me pass this by a few times because the cover looks like a Barbie-theme graphic novel. Don't get me wrong. I went through a huge Barbie doll phase. I still have a collection of Barbie dolls. But I never got into the Barbie merchandise and have no desire to read a Barbie graphic novel or watch a Barbie movie. I really wish the cover wasn't so bubble gum-looking.

Nevertheless, I decided to check this out. It's actually not bad. It's definitely sword and sorcery. I like the genre, and I think it was done quite well. The whole idea of Amethyst as a seventeen-year-old who comes into her heritage as a powerful princess of another kingdom is pretty cool. I like that each kingdom represents a different precious gem. However, one of my issues with the way Amethyst is drawn is Amy looks like just her mother and aunt. It was only possible to tell them apart based on what they were wearing. I think there was more variation in the other kingdoms, thankfully. While I wasn't loving the whole Barbie verisimilitude, the action and magic was actually pretty cool.

Talking about strange bedfellows. Amethyst is paired with Beowulf and Stalker, which are both very violent and more male-oriented sword and sorcery tales. It was a bit of a rough transition, probably moreso for readers who don't jump back and forth between male and female-oriented fiction.

Beowulf was kind of a cool update on the old tale. Instead of it being the original Beowulf, it's about a genetically engineered warrior of the same name, created by the Basilisk (who I know about from reading The Suicide Squad series). There is a link between Grendel and Beowulf because of Basilisk. Beowulf isn't strictly likable, but he definitely is good at killing monsters. I would read more of these stories.

Stalker is about an ancient warrior king who makes an unwise deal with Lucifer that comes back to bite him in the rear. He goes on a mission to get revenge in return. It was the darkest story. Readers who like horror action will enjoy it.

Overall, pretty good. If the cover makes you want to avoid it, I say give this a try.

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Irredeemable Vol.6 by Mark Waid, Peter Krause

Irredeemable, Vol. 6Irredeemable, Vol. 6 by Mark Waid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is it fair to review this when I accidentally read these out of order? I figured I probably should before I forget what I read.

I thought I had read volume five, but I was wrong, and I realized it fairly soon after I started reading it.

Waid is a tricky fellow. He has some moments where you feel just as delusional as Plutonian does. I couldn't figure out what was really happening. The other lowdown thing he does is have me feeling kinda sorry for Plutonian. Yeah, I wish I didn't. He's a really bad guy. But at the same time, he has some pathology that makes you a softhearted person which things had gone differently for him.

Although this was weird as all get out, and it has quite a few sexual deviants in it, I ended liking this volume more than I previously expected. It was freaky weird, and gave me a different vantage point. I needed it though, because I thought I had maxed out on how much I could despise Plutonian, and I wondered where it could go next. It looks like it can go very far.

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I, Vampire, Vol. 2: Rise of the VampiresI, Vampire, Vol. 2: Rise of the Vampires by Joshua Hale Fialkov
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

How can a vampire insurrection get any worse? Add zombies to the equation. I like vampire fiction. Zombie fiction? Not so much. Well, it depends on how it's done. This, well it was creepy and exciting and freaky. Add in some fundamentalist vampire hunters, then it's a party.

On the downside, the Gothic atmosphere I enjoyed so much in the first book isn't as evident. I missed it. On the good side, lots of action and some serious plot twists. Enemies become friends and friends become enemies. And bad guys become good guys (sort of), and maybe vice versa.

Stormwatch comes to lend a hand in the situation. Andrew could honestly use the help. But let's remember the cardinal rule: Andrew Barnett is not to be underestimated.

I'm going to take a break on this series, but I'll be back eventually.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted by Jason Latour (Text), Jason Aaron (Text), Yves Bigerel (Illustrations), Paco Diaz (Illustrations)

Wolverine: Japan's Most WantedWolverine: Japan's Most Wanted by Jason Latour
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was trying to figure out why I didn't like this more. With some distance, I realized I wasn't that fond of the artwork or the lettering. Wolverine is such an intense fellow, and his story is visceral and real. I like the art to reflect this. While bright colors don't come amiss to this art lover, I felt that the style of artwork was too cartoonish. Is that a thing when it comes to graphic novels? I guess it is, because it felt that way when I was reading this.

I am such an unbelievable sucker for anything martial arts and swordplay, and I have this bizarre obsession with the movie "The Wolverine". I've watched it quite a bit. I wonder if that movie was loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on this graphic novel, or does this go back to the older Wolverine series? Anyway, I saw some scenes that seemed echoed in the movie. I would have loved to see the movie mirror this story a bit more, but with the artwork that is so endearing to me in the X-Force run by Craig Kyle. I would have been blown away by this if it had that sort of visual style. Because the story itself was pretty good.

One of my favorite parts in this was when Logan gets in touch with his inner samurai. I really ate that part up. As of late, I have become quite the Wolverine fan. And my friend who is a Wolverine acolyte isn't even returning my calls, so he doesn't know how much his obsession has rubbed off on me. (*heavy sigh*)

At any rate, I feel myself rambling. Let's get back on point. That Sabertooth is so revolting to me in every way. I think this book really captures that about his character, and how he's like a bad case of retroviral latent infection. He always comes back, often worse than ever. Poor Logan. At times, it seems a mercy that his memory is spotty in great parts.

I picked this up because it's really hard to figure out where to dive in to start reading Wolverine's series. I did read Weapon X back in the day. It's been a while. And because this is set in Japan. I figure I couldn't go wrong. Overall, it was okay. Not a bad start. I am looking forward to reading more Wolverine in the near future.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stormwatch, Vol. 1: The Dark SideStormwatch, Vol. 1: The Dark Side by Paul Cornell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up because of the mention of Stormwatch in another graphic novel I had finished, and partially because Martian Manhunter is in it. I thought it might be an interesting story. I had no previous information about this book going into it, and I feel that newbies might be confused with this first book. It's a reboot of the series, since DC Comics absorbed Wildstorm, and as a result of the New 52, DC Comics-wide reboot.

It's pretty good, but I was left pretty confused about what was going on. The cast is intriguing, and it sort of reminded me of the BBC show Torchwood a little, although it's not exactly like it.

Things I liked:

*I liked the idea of a motley crew hanging out in hyperspace and going on missions to protect the galaxy and more specifically Planet Earth.

*There is a pretty diverse group of folks in the group.

*Since I am a bit of a sucker for swordsmanship, I liked that one of the crew was the Eminence of Blades, pretty much the Master of all Swordmasters.

*For those who like a little bit of GLBT, there is a love at first sight scenario between Apollo and Midnighter.

*Apollo's power of absorbing solar energy and using it to give himself super strength was pretty cool.

*Jack Hawskmoor can essentially communicate with the spirit of all cities. That was kind of neat.

What I Didn't Care For:

*I was confused about what going on. The writing essential drops you in the story in media res, with no background and limited revelation on characters as the story goes along. The sketches at the end told me more about the characters than I learned reading it. I don't think that's a good strategy since the whole New 52 is about introducing new readers to tried and true imprints.

*The layout was awkward and contributed to my feeling of confusion about what was going on. The artwork didn't speak to my soul very much. It wasn't bad, with the colors being bright and appealing, but not really that impressive. As a side note, I couldn't tell if Midnighter was supposed to be black and that Jenny Quantum was Asian.

**As an aside, I looked this up on New 52 and I think they took a pretty different direction with the story from what it was in the Wildside comics. It seems much less edgy that it once was. That's neither here nor there.

Overall, this was okay. Not bad, but not that impressive. I might pick up later volumes, but it's not a huge priority at this point.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Swamp Thing, Volume 2: Family Tree by Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette (Artist), Marco Rudy (Artist), Francesco Francavilla (Artist), Kano (Artist), Becky Cloonan (Artist)

Swamp Thing, Vol. 2: Family TreeSwamp Thing, Vol. 2: Family Tree by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one better than the first. I don't know if it's because it gives us some background on Alec and in particular how his fate became entangled with Abigail. The battle between the Green and the Rot feels epic. In this book, we see that the battle also involves the other vital force, the Red, which is the animal primal nature.

I really like the concept of plantlife being powerful and sentient. I think it's because I love plants and I am a keen gardener. I feel like that part of me that loves plants connects to Alec as a hero. And the part of me that is a healer instinctively rejects the Rot. I like that Abigail's fate isn't predetermined. That Alec fights for her and she fights against it herself. I feel that bad her brother had chosen the darker path.

This series is definitely more horror than anything else. Lots of disturbing imagery, but the artwork is in its own way very beautiful. I think this one has earned four stars from me. I will keep reading!

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Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Steelheart" is a should read for fans of 'superhero' fiction. This is a different vantage point of superheroes though. In this world, they are the villains. Called "Epics", they are humans who manifest powers after a comet called "Calamity" arrives. These guys are just plain mean, and above that, they are also murderous psychopaths if not sociopaths who believe that their abilities make them above the rules and also human ethics and right and wrong.

Sanderson is a great writer. He sucks the reader right into this story from the first page. David has a very personal reason to hate the Epics, and makes it his mission to bring down the Epic who murdered his father. You see first hand how terrible the Epics can be in action. If you're like me, you have to reorient yourself to understand that the Epics can't ever be the heroes of this story. But then, you also know to keep reading, because it's not as cut and dried as you think.

This whole story felt new and unique to me. Some elements are tried and true, but the execution is unique. I can see this making a great movie. The art direction for Newcago would be fantastic. Having been born in the shadow of this great Midwestern city, it was really compelling to see how Steelheart had distorted this city and remade it in his own image. Seeing the Epics in action as well. The way Sanderson writes, it does feel very vivid and lifelike in my mind.

I didn't give this more than four stars, because it still has that young adult superficiality that I regret when I read Young Adult books. I feel like the publishers must make the authors and editors trim down the books in some way, in this mistaken belief that younger readers can't handle a deeper read. Having read Mistborn by Sanderson, I know he is capable of going deep, and I would love to see more that in this series. The idea is great and the story itself is well done. I just want to feel like I'm reading a more finished/complex work. I refuse to believe that younger readers can't handle it. After all, this story does go to some dark places.

I also wasn't that fond of the relationship between David and Megan. I felt like it was checking of the list for young adult books nowadays--obligatory young adult elements. Don't get me wrong, I really love romance. But romance has to feel real and integral to the story, and Megan and David's relationship wasn't deep enough to get to that point. Megan wasn't likable as a character (or as well developed), and I had trouble believing David would fall for her. Out of the members of the Reckoners, she was the least appealing character to me. I though the Professor, Abraham, Cody and Tia were all really cool. And of course, I liked David. I loved how he was a real geek, a compiler of facts about the Epics to an exhaustive degree. And he had developed the skills in himself to accomplish the goals he needed to have to get his revenge on Steelheart.

Despite the fact that this wasn't a perfect book, I still recommend it readers of superhero fiction. It takes the familiar concepts of the genre and makes you think about it hard. I could almost see Steelheart as a dark version of Superman, much like Plutonian from Irredeemable, Vol. 1 , and that's a very scary thought. I will definitely keep reading this series.

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Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Kiss of Snow (Psy-Changeling, #10)Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fans of this series have waited a long time to see the Alpha Wolf and the Cardinal Psy get together.  It was well worth the wait.  These are some of my impressions of this book.

Hawke made it as hard as possible for Sienna. He inadvertently played a lot of emotional games, pushing her away, but then acting so territorial towards her.  He made it hard for Sienna to be happy apart from him, even though he was resisting the idea of them together.  There were times I wanted to pull out my shovel that I reserve for braining annoying heroes and give him a wallop or two.  Don't get me wrong, Hawke is still one of my favorites.  He just jumped on my nerves a bit in this book. I was glad he finally got a clue that he wasn't going to be happy if he wasn't going to be happy with Sienna.

Honestly, I struggle with the sexual values of the Changelings.  I can't see how the pack members sleeping with each other before they find their mates doesn't lead to friction with their future mates. I guess I'm too jealous. I don't like the idea of interacting with my future husband's past sexual partners.  That would definitely give me heartburn.  While I understand the concept of the importance of touch and affection, I don't get how they can be so cavalier about sexual intimacy. I don't buy Hawke's insistence to Sienna that he wasn't using Rosalie. Um, he kind of was, even if she was okay with it.   I can't suspend my personal sexual ethics enough to be okay with all that.  And the fact that Hawke was so jealous of Sienna spending time with Kit but not understanding how Sienna wouldn't like the fact that he was sleeping with another wolf felt like a huge double standard.  Maybe that was a very obvious symptom to the both of them that Hawke was seeing his mate but not "seeing" her.  The man had a head like a vibranium/adamantium alloy. In other words, really, really hard!

Normally, I am all over changeling/werewolf romance freak, but the Psy aspect of this story wins my affection, hands down. I freaking love the Psy. They are super duper kickbutt awesome.  To me, the Psy storyline drives the story.  I'm ever so excited to read and discover who The Ghost is. No, I don't know yet, so no spoilers please.  Now that I have my Hawke/Sienna book under my belt, it's all about the Psy for me.  Yeah, I'll read the Changeling stories, but gimme my Psy!

Was Sienna crazy awesome or what? I had no idea she had those kinds of powers. Singh did a great job revealing that as the story went along.  Her abilities are crucial to protect the SnowDancer pack especially with the future conflicts on the horizon.  I'm glad that she has a mate who realizes how special she is and will do just about anything to keep her safe and knows how much she is loved.

I also loved the Walker/Lara subplot.  Walker is the old adage "still waters run deep."  He fits shadows Hawke's "playing hard to get" behavior.  I think in the case of Walker, he believes he's incapable of feeling deeply for Lara, but why does he treat her like the woman he loves?  You have to read the book to find out how that goes, but I was very satisfied with their courtship.

Even outside of seeing Hawke and Sienna get together, this whole story was satisfying.  Singh writes great romance, but she also has fantastic world-building and a great story overall. And the tension and excitement of the ongoing war building up in this world of Psy versus Changeling (and the aspect that it's not as cut and dried as it seems) makes for compelling reading.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm one of the few fans of this series who has gotten around to reading this so late. But I finally did!  I'm a happy camper.

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Seducing the Spy by Celeste Bradley

Seducing the Spy (Royal Four, #4)Seducing the Spy by Celeste Bradley

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It reminds me why I love this author. I believe she is criminally underrated among the historical romance authors.  She writes very sexy historical romance that also has substance and wit. Her characters are appealingly quirky and flawed.  This book is so in that vein.

Lady Alicia is Ruined, with a capable R.  It wasn't her fault, but that doesn't make it right.  My heart hurt for Alicia.  I tend to like my heroines virginal, but I also like a heroine who has had a bit of life experience under her belt, and she is a survivor. In other words, I don't think possessing a "V" card is enough to make a successful heroine.   A heroine should be three-dimensional and she should have substance and character. That was so Alicia.  I loved her.  I rooted for her to get her happy ending, and I really wanted it to be with Wyndham!

Now Wyndham is more of the Darcy type hero. Cold, composed and remote.  His reasons for being so make a lot of sense. You see, Wyndham always knows when someone is lying to him. Except for Alicia.  It drives him crazy that he can't read Alicia. Especially since he has began falling for her shortly after they met.  I liked how Alicia brought out the wilder, emotional side in Wyndham.  But how he fought it. At times, I felt his behavior towards her was very unkind, and I wanted him to realize what a gem she was. At the same time, I loved how Alicia demanded respect. She didn't lay down to be abused by him. Even with her diminished circumstances, Alicia stayed true to herself and was her own person. She won her hero fair and square.

Even though it's taken me years to finish this series, I felt like the ending was perfect.  This book is a great combination of light humor and wit, sexy and emotional romance, and a nice dose of suspense and intrigue.  It's an excellent conclusion to the Liar's Club series and its crossover The Royal Four.  I enjoyed catching up with the other characters from The Royal Four, and they made me nostalgic from my days of reading The Liar's Club.

This book is several years old, but I think it's worth tracking down.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Daredevil Visionaries, Volume 3 by Frank Miller, etc

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller, Vol. 3Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller, Vol. 3 by Frank Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my least favorite out of the Daredevil Visionaries volumes.  I think the storylines were less compelling and didn't make up for the dated nature of the artwork. Also, there wasn't nearly enough Elektra in it for me.  I don't like Heather Glenn as Matt's girlfriend.  I think that it's a misalliance. Plus, the villains were pretty campy in my opinion.  "Guts" was a lot of fun.  Foggy Nelson, Matt's law partner, goes off on his own adventure to investigate arms dealing for Heather, and gets a reputation as a formidable assassin.  Daredevil goes along as his invisible backup and does all the butt-kicking dirty work for him.  I was sad when it ended. I also liked Matt's what if Elektra hadn't died. The story about Matt as as SHIELD agent wasn't as successful. Oh, and I liked how the Punisher shows up.  They are good contrasting characters, and in some ways mirror each other, although make different choices for the 'good.' Although I find Matt a very likable, sympathetic lead, part of me really respects the Punisher's ethos.  I think when I'm upset with all the injustice and cruelty in the world, having a cypher like the Punisher is good catharsis for me.  In general, I think I am generally more aligned with Daredevil's ethos, but sometimes, The Punisher gets the thumbs up from me.

I did like that I was able to catch up on Daredevil's story.  Now I'm glad that I can read some newer comics about Daredevil and Elektra and get some more updated artwork and storylines.  I don't doubt the influence that Frank Miller and his coworkers have had on this character, and I am grateful for these older books in the series. I'm glad I was able to read these from the library.

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The Wedding Night of an English Rogue by Jillian Hunter

The Wedding Night of an English Rogue: A NovelThe Wedding Night of an English Rogue: A Novel by Jillian Hunter

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This was a pretty good historical romance, a story of reunited lovers, with plenty of steamy romance. However, I never felt that zing, that sense of connection with the characters and that compulsion to keep reading. I felt like it was fine to pick this book up when I had a free moment, and to put it down when I had more important things to do.

I'm not a big fan of lovers reunited stories, but I liked that Heath and Julia are older and wiser, and have lived their lives, and know very well that what they have together is very good and it's worth committing to this time around.

There were some fun moments, especially with the salacious sketch of Heath that falls into the wrong hands. I really liked when Heath realized that he wasn't going to let Julia get away from him this time, no matter what. I love a hero in pursuit!  I wasn't that into the whole "Boscastle Antics" aspect of the story. It reminds me unfavorably of how there is a tendency to wink and nod at a family in a series, and to draw readership for the later stories by reminding the reader of how crazy the family is. Of course, I love series books. No question. I just think that the author's job is to make a storyline so compelling that we can't help but race for the next book. I'm not that intrigued with the other Boscastle rogues at this point. I'll keep reading because I like this author a lot. But it's not an urgency for me right now.

This is a solid B read for me.  A nice past-time with plenty of sexual tension between Julia and Heath that I'm sure many readers will really enjoy.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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